BTS Legislative Authorities and Mandates

BTS Legislative Authorities and Mandates

Compilation of statistics. BTS must compile and analyze a comprehensive set of transportation sta-tistics to provide timely summaries and totals (in-cluding industry wide aggregates and multi-year averages). The statistics must be suitable for con-ducting cost-benefit studies, including comparisons among individual transportation modes and intermodal transport systems. [49 U.S.C. 111(c)(1)].

Topics. The statistics BTS compiles, analyzes, and publishes must include information on the topics listed below. [49 U.S.C. 111(c)(1)].

  1. productivity in various parts of the transportation sector;
  2. traffic flows;
  3. travel times;
  4. vehicle weights;
  5. variables influencing traveling behavior, including choice of transportation mode;
  6. travel costs of intracity commuting and intercity trips;
  7. availability of mass transit and the number of passengers served by each mass transit authority;
  8. frequency of vehicle and transportation facility repairs and other interruptions of transportation service;
  9. accidents;
  10. collateral damage to the human and natural environment;
  11. the condition of the transportation system; and
  12. transportation-related variables that influence global competitiveness.

Long term data collection program. BTS must establish and implement a comprehensive long-term program for the collection and analysis of data relating to the performance of the transportation systems of the United States. The program shall:

  • be coordinated with the modal administrators, the States, and other Federal officials;
  • be coordinated with DOTs GPRA efforts to measure outputs and outcomes;
  • ensure that data are collected in a manner that will maximize the ability to compare data from different regions and for different time periods;
  • ensure that data collected are controlled for accuracy, made relevant to the States and MPOs, and disseminated to the States and other interested parties. [49 U.S.C. 111(c)(2)].

BTS is to coordinate the collection of information by DOT required for statistics to be compiled by BTS with related information-gathering activities conducted by other Federal departments and agencies. BTS shall identify information needs, review these needs at least annually with the Advisory Council, and make recommendations to DOT concerning research programs to provide such information. BTS should collect appropriate data not elsewhere gathered. [49 U.S.C. 111(c)(4),(5)].

Accessibility. BTS must make the statistics it compiles readily accessible. [49 U.S.C. 111(c)(5)]. BTS shall transmit to the President and Congress a Transportation Statistics Annual Report, which shall include information on the topics listed above, documentation of methods used to obtain and ensure the quality of the statistics presented in the report, and recommendations for improving transportation statistical information. [49 U.S.C. 111(j)]. BTS must maintain an Intermodal Transportation Data Base. [49 U.S.C. 111(d)]. BTS must facilitate and promote access to the National Transportation Library, with the goal of improving the ability of the transportation community to share information and the ability of the Director to make its statistics readily accessible. [49 U.S.C. 111(e)]

Customers. BTS long-term data collection pro-gram must provide data relevant to States and MPOs. [49 U.S.C. 111(c)(2)(C)]. BTS statistics are to support transportation decision-making by all levels of government, transportation-related associations, private businesses, and consumers. [49 U.S.C. 111(c)(7)]. The Intermodal Transpor-tation Data Base shall be suitable for analyses car-ried out by the Federal Government, the States, and MPOs. [49 U.S.C. 111(d)(2).].

DOT Statistical Policy. BTS is responsible for issuing guidelines for the collection of information by the Department of Transportation required for statistics to be compiled by BTS. The guidelines are to ensure that the information is accurate, reliable, relevant, and in a form that permits systematic analysis. [49 U.S.C. 111(c)(3)].

The Bureau shall review and report to the Secre-tary on the sources and reliability of the statistics proposed under GPRA to measure outputs and outcomes. [49 U.S.C. 111(c)(3)]. This is bolstered by the requirement that BTS coordinate its long-term data collection efforts with other efforts in support of GPRA. [49 U.S.C. 111(c)(2)(A)]. When requested by the Secretary, BTS shall also carry out other reviews of the sources and reliability of other data collected by DOT. [49 U.S.C. 111(c)(3)].

The Bureau cannot require any other department or agency to collect data. [49 U.S.C. 111(h)].

Except where specifically authorized, BTS can only use information it collects for statistical purposes and cannot make a disclosure where data about an individual can be identified. Neither government agencies nor courts can require BTS to make such a disclosure. Where the Bureau is authorized by statute to collect data for a nonstatistical purpose, it shall clearly distinguish the collection, by rule and on the collection instrument, so as to inform a respondent that is requested or required to supply the data or information of the nonstatistical pur-pose. [49 U.S.C. 111(i)].

Intermodal Transportation Data Base. The data base must be suitable for analyses carried out by the Federal Government, the States, and MPOs. In working on this, BTS is to consult with the As-sociate Deputy Secretary, the Assistant Secretaries, and the heads of the operating administrations. The data base must include:

  • information on the volumes and patterns of movement of goods, including local, interregional, and international movement, by all modes of transportation and intermodal combinations, and by relevant classification;
  • information on the volumes and patterns of movement of people, including local, interregional, and international movements, by all modes of transportation (including bicycle and pedestrian modes) and intermo-dal combinations, and by relevant classifica-tion;
  • information on the location and connectivity of transportation facilities and services; and
  • a national accounting of expenditures and capital stocks on each mode of transportation and intermodal combination.
    [49 U.S.C. 111(d)].

National Transportation Library. The National Transportation Library shall contain a collection of statistical and other information. BTS must facilitate and promote access to the Library, with the goal of improving the ability of the transportation community to share information and the ability of the Director to make its statistics readily accessible. In developing the Library, BTS shall work with other transportation libraries and other transportation information providers, both public and private. [49 U.S.C. 111(e)].

National Transportation Atlas Data Base. BTS shall develop and maintain geospatial data bases able to support intermodal network analysis. The data bases must depict:

  • transportation networks;
  • flows of people, goods, vehicles, and craft over the networks; and
  • social, economic, and environmental conditions that affect or are affected by the networks.
    [49 U.S.C. 111(f)].

International Data. TEA-21 added transporta-tion-related variables influencing global competi-tiveness to BTS list of topics. It also requires BTS to complete a study of the highway transportation of international trade by June 2001. For the study BTS must:

  • measure ton-miles and value-miles of international traffic carried by highway in each State;
  • evaluate the accuracy and reliability of such measures for use in the highway apportionment formula;
  • evaluate the accuracy and reliability of the use of diesel fuel data as a measure of international trade traffic by State; and
  • identify needed improvements in long-term data collection programs to provide accurate and reliable measures of international traffic for use in the formula for highway appor-tionments.
    [Section 5115 of TEA-21].

Aviation Information. The Bureau is to collect and disseminate information on civil aeronautics including, at a minimum, information on (A) the origin and destination of passengers in interstate air transportation, and (B) the number of passengers traveling by air between any two points in interstate air transportation. [49 U.S.C. 329(b)(1)]

Motor Carrier Information. The Bureau is to collect and disseminate information on motor carriers. BTS shall require Class I and Class II motor carriers to report annual financial and safety reports, containing, at a minimum balance sheets and income statements. BTS may require quarterly, periodic, or special reports from motor carriers, freight forwarders, brokers, lessors, and associations, or classes of them. In designing the reporting program, BTS must consider: (1) safety needs; (2) the need to preserve confidential busi-ness information and trade secrets and prevent competitive harm; (3) private sector, academic, and public use of information in the reports; and (4) the public interest. BTS must streamline and simplify the reporting requirements to the maximum extent practicable. [49 U.S.C. 14123].

Position within DOT. The Bureau is an operating administration of the Department of Transportation, the head of which reports directly to the Secretary. [49 U.S.C. 111(a), (b); 49 CFR 1.2 and 1.3].

Director. The Director, appointed by the Presi-dent and confirmed by the Senate, serves four years. The Director must have training and expe-rience in the compilation and analysis of transpor-tation statistics. [49 U.S.C. 111(b)].

Advisory Council on Transportation Statistics (ACTS). ACTS is to advise BTS on transportation statistics and analyses, including whether or not the statistics and analysis disseminated by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics are of high quality and are based upon the best available objective information. [Section 6007 of ISTEA].

Funding. BTS is authorized funding at $31 mil-lion per year through 2003, as contract authority. [Section 5001(a) of TEA-21]. Under TEA-21, these funds are reserved from the distribution of the general obligation limitation. [Section 1102(c)(1)]. BTS is subject to the Research and Technology obligation limitation, which remains available for three fiscal years. [Section 1102(e) of TEA-21, as amended by the TEA-21 Restoration Act].

Sale Proceeds. BTS may retain funds it receives from the sale of data products, for the purpose of reimbursing the Bureau for necessary expenses incurred. [49 U.S.C. 111(k)].

Grants. The Secretary may make grants, coopera-tive agreements, and contracts for:

  • investigation of the topics for which it must compile statistics;
  • research and development of new methods of data collection, management, integration, dissemination, interpretation, and analysis;
  • development of electronic clearinghouses of transportation data and related information, as part of the National Transportation Library; and
  • development and improvement of methods for sharing geographic data, in support of the national transportation atlas data base and the National Spatial Data Infrastructure.

The grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts can be with public and nonprofit private entities, including State DOTs, MPOs, and institutions of higher education. Funding for these agreements is limited to $500,000 per year. [49 U.S.C. 111(g)].